Bespoke Brunch Reads: 12/8/19

Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

While you’re here, join Bespoke Premium for 3 months for just $95 with our 2020 Annual Outlook special offer.


Uber discloses 3,000 reports of sexual assault on U.S. rides last year in its long-awaited safety study by Faiz Siddiqui (WaPo)

2018 alone saw 3,000 sexual assaults during Uber rides in just the US, reflecting a staggering risk for riders. A recent safety report also tallied 97 fatal crashes involving riders, 19 fatal physical assaults of riders, and more chaos during trips. [Link; soft paywall]

“Peloton Husband” Speaks Out by Alec Beall (Psychology Today)

Social media users unloaded on the popular stationary bike brand this week, criticizing the framing of an ad that depicted a video log of a woman using a bike her husband got her as a gift. The actor published a response to the vitriol this week. [Link]

TeamHealth sent thousands of surprise medical bills in 2017 by Caitlin Owens (Axios)

Investigations into the practice of surprise billing revealed physician staffing firm TeamHealth used surprise bills to increase the rate at which it billed insurers. [Link]


How McKinsey Helped the Trump Administration Detain and Deport Immigrants by Ian MacDougall (ProPublica)

Reporting by ProPublica and the New York Times reveals that consulting giant McKinsey played a critical role in developing practices which have attracted the greatest condemnation over the past couple of years: cutting food and medical care allocations, as well as detainee supervision. [Link]

Trump gave states the power to ban refugees. Conservative Utah wants more of them. by Griff Witte (WaPo)

While the Trump Administration is doing everything it can to reduce the number of refugees that the United States accepts every year, deeply Republican Utah is happy taking in more new arrivals. [Link; soft paywall]


Pinterest And The Knot Will Stop Promoting Wedding Content That Romanticizes Former Slave Plantations by Clarissa-Jan Lim (BuzzFeed News)

Two large online wedding platforms will no longer promote venues and content that romanticize weddings at plantations. [Link]

Tech Trends

Unintended Perk of the Online Mattress Boom: Never-Ending Free Trials by Stephanie Yang (WSJ)

With dozens of new mattress companies offering free trials that last more than three months, savvy consumers are taking advantage. [Link; paywall]

Inside Larry Page’s Turbulent Kitty Hawk: Returned Deposits, Battery Fires And A Boeing Shakeup by Jeremy Bogaisky (Forbes)

Google co-founder Larry Page’s flying-car company promised that by the end of 2017, customers could purchase one of the light personal aircraft. Unfortunately, deployment hasn’t been so easy. [Link]

Trade Tales

Illegal gold flowing through Miami is a ‘direct threat’ to U.S. national security, Rubio says by Alex Daugherty and Nicholas Nehamas (Miami Herald)

Illegal gold miners in Latin America tend to route their product through Miami, and while the negative effects of the mining aren’t directly felt by Floridians that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. [Link]

Visualized: Ranking the Goods Most Traded Between the U.S. and China by Asley Viens (Visual Capitalist)

A helpful point of reference: the categories of trade goods that are most-traded between the United States and China. US imports are dominated by cell phones, computers, and routers, while exports to China amount to soybeans, airplanes, and some cars. [Link]

Workplace Wonder & Woe

Starbucks Discloses Gender and Racial Pay Gap: There Isn’t One by Jeff Green (Bloomberg)

In a remarkable break from the norm, the nation’s largest coffee chain delivered a diversity report that showed no gap in pay between men and women and no racial pay gap either. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

Emotional Baggage by Zoe Schiffer (The Verge)

A remarkable catalogue of management failure and the excessive work culture of popular luggage brand Away, where workers were subjected to dramatic demands by a management desperate to grow. [Link]

Exclusive: CalPERS Fires Most of Its Equity Managers (Chief Investment Officer)

California’s public pension has fired most of the funds it uses to manage its external equity investment portfolio, taking the allocation to that space from $33.6bn to $5.5bn and reducing 17 managers to just 3. [Link]

Media Matters

Celebrities Seek Her Advice. M.B.A.s, Executives Line Up for Her Harvard Class. by Kathryn Dill (WSJ)

Harvard Business School offers a specific class on the business of stardom; this op-ed by the professor discusses her approach to the world of athletes and performers. [Link; paywall]

The Irishman Gets De-Aging Right—No Tracking Dots Necessary by Angela Watercutter (Wired)

A look at the intense technology required to make old actors young again, deployed to great effect in The Irishman. [Link]

The Kingdom, the Heavyweights and the $60 Million Prize Fight in the Desert by Joshua Robinson (WSJ)

This weekend featured a massive prize fight hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, featuring a temporary 15,000 person stadium, a $60mm purse, and the kind of glitz only money can buy. [Link; paywall]


The myth of crowding out by Jamie Powell (FTAV)

A summary of a recent paper that contradicts the widely-held belief that government budget deficits “crowd out” private investment by soaking up capital that would otherwise go to private projects. [Link; registration required]


Ford is making car parts—with waste from McDonald’s coffee beans by Amelia Lucas (CNBC)

The waste from coffee bean roasting at McDonald’s is being put to good use, getting included in auto parts used by Ford that reduce waste both during driving (the parts are lighter) and production (the parts use less energy to make). [Link]

How the 2010s Changed Physics Forever by Ryan F. Mandelbaum (Gizmodo)

A review of the biggest achievements of the decade in physics, from CERN’s Higgs bosons to the minute fluctuations caused by massive gravitational waves. [Link]

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Have a great weekend!

The Closer – Semis Surge, Credit Rally, Breakeven Blow-Out, Fedspeak – 11/11/19

Log-in here if you’re a member with access to the Closer.

Looking for deeper insight on markets?  In tonight’s Closer sent to Bespoke Institutional clients, we begin with a look at just how strong semis have been this bull market as well as how credit spreads have changed over the past year. We then show just how Boeing (BA) and Walgreens (WBA) saved the Dow from a decline in today’s session.  Next, we show the massive move in breakeven yields and the tone of FOMC speakers in recent weeks.

See today’s post-market Closer and everything else Bespoke publishes by starting a 14-day free trial to Bespoke Institutional today!

Bespoke Brunch Reads: 10/27/19

Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

While you’re here, join Bespoke Premium for 3 months for just $95 with our 2019 Annual Outlook special offer.

Changes And Stasis

Apple Pay Overtakes Starbucks as Top Mobile Payment App in the US (eMarketer)

Mobile payments leader Starbucks has been surpassed by Apple Pay, which now was more than 30mm US users accounting for 47% of total users who use proximity payment services. [Link]

‘Death by Amazon’ Was a False Alarm for Walmart and Some Other Retailers by Daren Fonda (Barron’s)

Bespoke’s own Death By Amazon index shows that traditional retailers have been having a great year despite the rise of the e-commerce giant. [Link]

Why the Gasoline Car to the EV is Like the Horse to the Car by Vitaliy Katsenelson (Contrarian Edge)

Part of an 11-part series on Tesla and related topics, this essay argues that internal combustion engines’ decline is a critical shift akin to the end of horses and rise of the automobile. [Link]


The Latest in Security for Hollywood Homeowners: “Laser Systems in Every Single Project” by Alexandria Abramian (The Hollywood Reporter)

Higher incidence of robberies and burglaries have the stars of the silver screen thinking more about their security and some of the results live up to the same over-the-top approach that celebrities bring to other kinds of consumption. [Link]

The One Where Apple Tried to Buy Its Way Into Hollywood by Lucas Shaw and Mark Gurman (Bloomberg)

A detailed look at the story of Apple’s entry into the world of streaming, powered by an ocean of cash and a need to bolster services revenues, a risky play given the history of what makes winners in Hollywood. [Link; soft paywall]


An Undeserved Gift by Shane Mitchell (The Bitter Southerner)

The delicious oral history of okra, a key ingredient in the cuisine of the south that was part of the massive Columbian Exchange; the vegetable goes back so far into that history that nobody can when or how specifically it made its way from Africa to the Gulf Coast. [Link]

Popeyes Will Hire More Staff to Deal With Return of Hit Sandwich by Leslie Patton (Bloomberg)

In early November, the chicken joint will resume its offering of chicken sandwiches which proved so staggeringly popular over the course of the summer, and it’s hiring extra workers to do so. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

Online ordering boom gives rise to virtual restaurants by Alexandra Olson (AP)

Commercial kitchens are sharing space and workers in order to offer precisely tailored menus designed for takeout that appeals to users of Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats. [Link]


The Student Vote Is Surging. So Are Efforts to Suppress It. by Michael Wines (NYT)

College student voting rates doubled from 2014 to 2018, as young people increasingly turn out in opposition to the GOP; the response has been to restrict voting by students. [Link]

A multi-millionaire set out to counter Dominion. Now he’s the state’s biggest campaign donor. by Ned Oliver (Virginia Mercury)

When a Charlottesville-based hedge fund manager Michael Bills ran the numbers, he realized he could buy more influence with state lawmakers than the local utility, so he did. This is both an amusing and slightly horrifying story about how basically (and legally) corrupt many lawmakers have become. [Link]

Democrats Seek Insider Trading Probe After ‘Trump Chaos’ Article by Ben Bain and Matt Robinson (Yahoo!/Bloomberg)

Bespoke’s Macro Strategist George Pearkes gave a convincing debunking of the conspiracy theory that insiders were moving around S&P 500 futures ahead of Presidential tirades (link), but apparently that wasn’t enough for some Democratic lawmakers who want more details; those details will inevitably disappoint the tinfoil hat crowd. [Link]


A century after Black Sox, baseball cheating goes high-tech by Ben Nuckols (San Diego Union-Tribune)

While nobody can accuse modern players or whole teams of throwing the World Series, there’s still plenty of evidence that more modest acts of cheating are commonplace. [Link]

Why Baseball in D.C. Finally Worked by Brian Costa and Jared Diamond (WSJ)

A story of how the Washington Nationals finally broke through after spending years in purgatory north of the border in Montreal. [Link; paywall]


Mark Zuckerberg’s fascination with Augustus Caesar might explain the Facebook CEO’s haircut by Mary Mesenzahl (Business Insider)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a fan of Augustus Caesar, the princeps (“first citizen”) who helped transition Rome from a semi-republic to a full empire, and his weird haircut is one example of that appreciation. [Link]


How Boeing’s 737 MAX Troubles Are Affecting the Economy by Matthew C. Klein (Barron’s)

Boeing’s manufacturing operations are so large that the halt in sales (and orders) for just one of their models (the infamous 737-MAX) is having a very measurable impact on government economic statistics. [Link; paywall]

Executive Efforts

How to retire by 40 by Jamie Powell (FTAV)

An amusing set of tips for those who want to cut their working lives in half. [Link; registration required]

Inside Ken Fisher’s Private Kingdom, Where Hardball Culture Reels in Billions by Sabrina Willmer (Bloomberg)

Cold calls by the hundreds, more than $100bn in AUM, and direct mail in industrial quantities: inside the sprawling empire that is Fisher Investments. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

Halloween Horrors

Scariest haunted house in U.S. requires 40-page waiver, doctor’s note, safe word (WGN9)

If you’re willing to get a physical, sign a book-length waiver, and watch a two hour training video you are allowed to try the scariest attraction in America. If you can get through it without using your safe word, you’ll get a $20,000 reward. [Link]

The Times Square Sbarro Is Closed by Chris Crowley (Grub Street)

An iconic – and somewhat laughable – figure in Times Square, the Sbarro pizza is being closed after opening 23 years ago. [Link]

Social Media

Online Influencers Tell You What to Buy, Advertisers Wonder Who’s Listening by Suzanne Kapner and Sharon Terlep (WSJ)

Quantifying the benefit of advertising spending that is funneled through “influencers” gets complicated, leading to significant questions about how much value they provide. [Link; paywall]

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Have a great weekend!

Bespoke’s Morning Lineup – 10/23/19

See what’s driving market performance around the world in today’s Morning Lineup.  Bespoke’s Morning Lineup is the best way to start your trading day.  Read it now by starting a two-week free trial to Bespoke Premium.  CLICK HERE to learn more and start your free trial.